The moves were announced in a memo sent to department leaders on Thursday.
The memo stressed that items to be kept include email, social media messages, instant messages and text messages.
“Department of Homeland Security agencies and offices are directed to either maintain the actual mobile devices (and accompanying access information) or complete accessible full backups of all device contents to all members of the Senior Executive Service or political and equivalent designees, whenever such employee leaves or desires …their devices have been replaced or erased for any reason,” CIO Eric Heisen and General Counsel Jonathan Mayer wrote in the memo.
A working group at the Department of Homeland Security will review best practices in federal and private sector organizations and make recommendations to management regarding employee training, options for automating the backup of text messages and conversations, the ability to restrict email and management policies for email retention.
“As technology continues to rapidly evolve, the task force will ensure that the Department of Homeland Security continues to comply with all applicable laws, regulations, and guidance to meet the expectations of Congress, our other oversight entities, other key stakeholders, and the American public,” CIO Eric Heisen and General Counsel Jonathan Mayer wrote in a note to leaders The Department of Homeland Security.
Administration officials familiar with how the agency implements the changes told CNN that under current policy, text messages related to the agency’s business must be kept if there is no other record of the information.
The 2018 Department of Homeland Security guidance regarding the retention of text messages notes that not all text messages are considered official federal records and that “any communication in which a decision or commitment is made to the agency or where an action is complied with, is not otherwise documented, must have been done.” Catch him “.
But for almost all department employees, emails are maintained automatically and over a longer period of time. And for high-ranking employees, such as political appointees and senior MPs, the record-keeping rules are stricter than the record-keeping rules for regular employees.
For example, all emails of those at the top of posts are kept. But it is up to individuals to decide whether or not to keep the text messages. So DHS is now exploring shifting that responsibility from the individual to automating retention instead. The working group will focus on finding options to automatically retain these connections.
Officials note that the technology related to texting differs from email, in large part due to systems like encrypted IMessage, which presents a challenge in capturing communications automatically.
Officials also told CNN that DHS is exploring restricting text messages or other chats. Secret Service Director James Murray issued a memo to staff Wednesday indicating that text messaging on that agency’s cell phones may be disabled.
Pentagon issues memo to senior leaders reminding them to keep federal records, including text messages
The DHS memo was released a day after Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks instructed Department of Defense leaders that “Users of Department of Defense mobile devices that under current Department of Defense instructions, Department of Defense users are required to keep text messages that are federal records,” the secretary said. Acting journalist Todd Bricell said in a statement Thursday.
The US Watchdog, a third-party monitoring organization, requested cellphone records of top Defense Department officials who were in office when the January 6 Capitol attack occurred, including former Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, former Chief of Staff Cash Patel and former Secretary of Defense. Ryan McCarthy. Their cell phone records were erased when they resigned from their positions at the end of January 2021, according to court documents.
“Keeping records as required by the Federal Records Act is the solemn responsibility and legal obligation of all federal employees, civilian and military,” Hicks said in the memo. “DoD employees are reminded that … users must retain eligible text messages as records under the Federal Records Act.”
The memo further established that all DoD mobile service providers “effective immediately” “will capture and save data residing on DoD equipped mobile devices when the devices are operated by users.”
Hicks directed the Defense Department’s Chief of Information and Defense General Counsel to “evaluate Department of Defense policies and procedures” to ensure compliance with the Federal Records Act. The CIO and general counsel must report to Hicks within 30 days “with any other recommended actions.”
“The department will be transparent with Congress and the public about the recovery and oversight of records,” Brisell said in the statement.
A separate defense official told CNN that former Secretary of Defense Ryan McCarthy and former Undersecretary of State James McPherson “were not properly archived.” “There was no nefarious intent” behind the records, which were not archived, the official added.
Separately, the phones of Army Chief of Staff General James McConville and Army Chief of Staff General Walter Pyatt were replaced in the spring of 2021, as part of standard protocol.
“All army officials did exactly what” they were told to do, the official said.
Miller, Patel, and McCarthy are seen as crucial witnesses to understanding the government’s response to the January 6 Capitol attack and Trump’s response to the breach. There is no indication that the officials themselves cleared the records.
The US watchdog is now calling for a “cross-agency investigation” by the Department of Justice to investigate the material’s destruction.
“It is amazing to think that the agency did not understand the importance of preserving its records – in particular [with regards] To senior officials who may have been arrested: What were they doing, when they were doing it, why were they doing that that day,” Heather Sawyer, executive director of US censorship, told CNN.
Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect that mobile scanning of high-ranking DHS officials is temporary. The story has also been updated with additional details.